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WATTSBURG AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT v. SUZANNE JARRETT (12/05/88)

decided: December 5, 1988.

WATTSBURG AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT, APPELLANT
v.
SUZANNE JARRETT, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County, in the case of Suzanne Jarrett v. Wattsburg Area School District, No. 4912-A-1983.

COUNSEL

Christine Hall McClure, McClure, Dart, Miller, Kelleher & White, for appellant.

John J. Barber, with him, George Levin, for appellee.

Judges Craig and Smith, and Senior Judge Narick, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Smith. Judge MacPhail did not participate in the decision of this case.

Author: Smith

[ 121 Pa. Commw. Page 479]

The instant matter is presently before this Court pursuant to an order of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court which reversed a prior decision by this Court and remanded the record for disposition of issues related to the two alternate grounds for the trial court's reversal of the Wattsburg Area School Board's decision to suspend Appellee Suzanne Jarrett (Jarrett).*fn1 The decision of the trial court is affirmed.

The factual background is not in dispute and has been fully recited in prior decisions by this court and the Supreme Court. The following, however, is a brief summarization. Jarrett was hired by the Appellant, Wattsburg Area School District (School District), in 1974 as a guidance counselor. She was certified by the Department of Education as a guidance counselor but not as a teacher. James Tonks (Tonks) was hired by the School District in 1971 as a teacher of Spanish and driver education. In 1976, Tonks completed course

[ 121 Pa. Commw. Page 480]

    work for certification as a guidance counselor but did not apply for certification at that time.

Reductions in the professional staff were made by the School District for the school year 1983-1984 due to a decline in student enrollment in the driver's education program. As other certified teachers were available to teach the reduced driver education classes and to assume Tonks' Spanish classes, he consequently became a candidate for furlough.*fn2

Upon learning of his possible furlough, Tonks applied to the Department of Education for a guidance counseling certificate which was granted on June 24, 1983. On May 16, 1983, the superintendent, in anticipation of Tonk's certification, recommended that Jarrett be suspended because she was less senior than Tonks. As a result, Jarrett was suspended by the Board effective August 29, 1983, at the beginning of the 1983-1984 school year. Jarrett was notified of the Board's action by letter dated May 17, 1983 and that her benefits would continue through August 28, 1983.

[ 121 Pa. Commw. Page 481]

After hearing on the proposed furlough, the School Board upheld Jarrett's suspension which she appealed to the Erie County Court of Common Pleas. The trial court relied upon Penzenstadler v. Avonworth School District, 43 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 571, 403 A.2d 621 (1979), and determined that the reassignment of Tonks to Jarrett's position was contrary to the School Code as Tonks was not certified in guidance counseling at the time of the School Board's ...


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